World Toilet Day-A Reminder For Humanity To Stay Healthy

The Millennium Development Goal To Facilitate People Of Basic Sanitation

By Amir Iqbal Khan

Cleanliness is considered as the fundamental objective for maintaining proper health and hygiene and associated with it is the well being of a nation.
The event of World Toilet Day is celebrated world over on 19th of November of every year to mark the importance of sanitation and break the taboo around toilets.
This event has particular significance in Indian sub- continent where 75% of the population, have no toilets at all. So far as world scenario is concerned, as per data produced during 2019-20, 14% of the global population(1.0 billion people) used toilets or laterins where excreta were disposed off in situ. 74% of the world’s population(5.5 billion people) used at least a basic sanitation service. 2.6 billion people still do not have basic sanitation facilities such as toilets and laterins.

In the context of India, a baseline survey conducted by the government of India showed that 110 million people out of 180 million people did not have access to toilets which was revealed by an official from UNICEF in its report on 13th July 2021.A recent joint monitoring team programme ( JMP) on water, sanitation and hygiene by the WHO and UNICEF released on July 01, 2021 stated that atleast 15% of the total population in India defecates in the open. 1% of the urban and 22% of rural population practises open defecation in the country. Besides open defecation, the joint monitoring report also emphasized universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene ( WASH) to achieve the United Nations mandated sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in achieving universal access to basic water sanitation and hygiene services.
According to a report by NITI Ayog titled SDG- India: Index and Dashboard 2019-20:
“Nearly 6 million villages, 633 districts (90.7% of all districts) and 35 states/ Union Territories were verified as ODF in December 2019- seventeen states and  05 UT’s already have declared and verified all their districts to be ODF under Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen).”
Pertinantly, the claim that India is 100% open defecation free raises many questions.According to National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey 2019-20, 0.8% of the population in rural areas had no toilets and adopted open defecation for which the figure stood at 6.8% in 2018-19 and 23% in 2017-18. Now, JMP report claimed that there was biggest drop in open defecation since 2015. It said that with in India, OD defecation has remained highly variable since 2006. Moreover, third round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) quoted  less than 10% of the population in four states and the Union Territory of Delhi, and more than half the population in 11 states . By 2016, in the fourth round of NFHS suggested that open defecation had decreased in all states, of course, largest drops seen in Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. Thus, the open defecation at the national level dropped 16% for the last 10 years.
It is worthwhile that the Swachh Bharat Mission ( SBM) has focussed on providing access to house hold toilets.Infact, the country has not been declared ODF by the government; the data shows 94% coverage of the population having access to toilets from 2014 to 2019.The SBM was about to bring a change in behaviour especially among the rural population in respect of using toilets instead of practicing Open Defecation (O.D).
As per Rick Johnston – technical officer, JMP, Department for Environment, Climate change and Health, WHO, Switzerland, 41 data sources from India were accessed which were mostly house hold surveys, administrative data and the censuses of 1991, 2001 and 2011.
The region of Indian sub-continent has the world’s largest number of open defecators – people who are forced to use open fields instead of toilets – exposing them to major health hazards. Each year, across South Asia 500,000 children die simply because of unhealthy sanitation and water. In Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and India, poor sanitation is a major obstacle in the fight to reduce childhood death and disease.
Diarrhoea kills five times as many children in the developing world as malaria and AIDS combined and forces millions to spend weeks away from work or school, which hits both a country’s economy and its citizens, chances of a better future. Children who have constant bouts of diarrhoea are much more likely to suffer malnutrition and much less likely to absorb vaccines and fight childhood killers like pneumonia.
Studies have shown that the safe disposal of children’s faeces – which contain more pathogens than adult’s — leads to the reduction of more than 40% of childhood diarrhea.
It is observed that out of the 2.6 billion people in the world who remain without basic sanitation, one billion people live in South Asia. In India alone, 638 million people live without toilets – more households have televisions and more people have mobile phones than decent sanitation.
As sanitation is more than just access to a toilet but using one as well, it has become abundantly clear that good sanitation, once considered the domain of engineers, requires the involvement of social scientists, behaviour change experts, health professionals, and, vitally, individual people and communities. UNICEF focuses on equitable community-approaches to total sanitation aimed at full sanitation coverage in the whole community often starting at schools where children become agents of behaviour change at home. For a community to become ‘open-defecation free’, rich and poor households must all use toilets.
In the SAARC nations catagory, an assessment study carried out across four provinces in Pakistan showed 61% of those affected by the floods had an active cell phone while only 20% had access to a decent (clean and functioning) toilet. Similar situation prevails in countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Mayanmar etc.where required sanitation system is not in keeping with the standard normals and people continue to defecate in the countryside using open land area.
As a whole, South Asia was not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people without basic sanitation by 2015. In fact at the current rates of progress, the 2015 MDG target for sanitation was not met in South Asia until 2043 – 28 years too late.
It is not a new thing to us that hygiene is as important as clean drinking water for preventing diarrheal diseases. Going back to memorise that the recent floods in South India and in the neighbourhood in Pakistan, the attention to sanitation has become very critical in preventing disease outbreaks among millions of families and young children remain without proper sanitation.
It is crucial in disaster response that flood affected communities receive latrines and soap, as well as hygiene education to prevent illness and disease outbreaks, said a UNICEF official in a report on post flood management in Indian Sub- continent.
WHO and UNICEF, in cooperation with Health Ministries and Environment Departments of SAARC countries is implementing a multi-phased hygiene education campaign for flood affected communities through a “No Open Defecation” campaign. This campaign aims to help 28 million persons in affected communities take the first step to achieving basic sanitation and teaching flood survivors to build open pit latrines.
For instance, in Pakistan alone, the campaign was aimed at covering 7 lac people in four districts affected by the floods in the provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Ultimately these four districts were to be declared “Open Defecation Free Districts”. Similarly,  the campaign’s next targets of one million people was in other provinces as well.
These campaigns started yielding results over the next six to eight months. Each phase of this campaign was guided and monitored by pre and post-campaign surveys of knowledge, attitudes and practices which allowed UNICEF to measure and track the effectiveness of the campaign over time.
During the floods emergency, UNICEF had helped establish 16,505 bathing and latrine units benefitting almost one million displaced people in camps flood affected Pakistan. UNICEF had also distributed about 268,000 family hygiene kits and provided hygiene promotion sessions benefitting 2 million people as well as 700,000 bars of soap.
In addition to the other assistances, UNICEF had been providing potable water to over 2.5 million flood affected beneficiaries daily and an additional 80 million litres of safe drinking water through 8 million water purification tablets and household treatment filters.
As a major champion of the world wide campaign, UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. In India and Pakistan, it works with the government, NGOs and other partners to support child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and  individuals rebuild their lives after emergencies, such as the earthquakes and other varied forms of Natural vagaries and disasters.
With the re-invention of Clean India Mission Prime Minister Sh. Narinder Modi launched the ambitious “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” on 2nd October 2014 on country wide basis also gave a flip to the mission of eliminating the open defecation and to improve solid waste management. It is considered as the most significant and popular missions to have taken place in India having on national level encompassed all the town’s ( Rural and Urban). It served as a great initiative in making people aware of the importance of cleanliness. The campaign initially aimed to achieve the vision of a ‘Clean India’ by October 2nd 2019.The major thrust of this Abhiyan was to make the people realise the importance of toilets and for this a national level movement was launched in which Prime Minister himself initiated the cleanliness drive at Mandir Marg Police Station, New Delhi. In his address, Prime Minister elaborated the health problems that roughly half of the Indian families have to deal with due to lack of proper toilets in their homes. In response to this, people from different sections of the society came forward and joined this mass movement of Cleanliness. This program is seen as a shift over by the people who are taking the broom to sweep the streets,. Clean up the garbage, focus on sanitation and maintaining a hygienic environment.
The second phase of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is aimed at elimination of open defecation including fecal sludge management in all cities with less than one lakh citizens. The program which was started on 4th March 2020 is to be implemented up to 2024-25 in a mission mode with a total outlay of Rs 1,40,881 crore whic is aimed at ensuring effective solid and liquid waste management in every Panchayat. It will also focus on sustaining the gains made in the first phase of the program in the past five years in terms of toilet access and usage, and will ensure that no one is left behind. During Dissemination and Consultation of workshop on SBM ( G) phase-II, Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat had said that since the launch of the Mission in 2014, over 10 crore toilets have been built in rural areas adding, ” over 5.9 lakh villages in 699 districts of 35 states/UT’s have declared themselves open defecation free ( ODF).”
Besides human fecal matter, animal solid waste especially produced through the dog menace in every street, market and habituated place of the country needs special attention of the concerned government authorities associated with the Swachh Bharat Mission lest this problem may attain a formidable proportion as the dog fecal matter contains all kinds of disease producing pathogens.
One thing of satisfaction to be heaved by the public is the provision incorporated in the SLWM component of ODF plus-that through output- outcome indicators for four key areas, one of the crucial areas covered is animal waste management- equally being given importance with human waste matter.
In nutshell most significant factor to be addressed by the concerned agencies connected to this global task and to achieve the most aspired goal is to first bring a change in the socio- economic structure of varigating societies of the world.
Although the aim of the Nationwide Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is to make sanitation a daily routine by making every household and every individual aware of their responsibility regarding toilets and defecation and timely disposal of roughages.
As far as the Chenab Valley of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, 70% of the population lives in rural areas on the hilly and mountainous slopes/tracts and do not have adequate financial resources to build well furnished houses with the wastage disposal attachments including toilets etc.
“I am a laborer by profession and wages are seldom available. It is very difficult to get two meals a day. Where can I get money to build a toilet?  Kifayatullah Bhatt, a resident of a far flung village Badi of Marmat Tehsil of Doda district said while expressing his dismay.
It is pertinent to mention here that the implementation of such schemes launched by the government on the ground level is questionable and the negligence of the officers and personnel of the concerned departments posted for implementing these schemes is alleged to be largely responsible for this.
Haphazard Disposal of wastes and sewage mismanagement due to unplanned construction and renovation of towns and cities without prior proper planning: well before undertaking so-called modernisation is another reason for the mess so created that is bound to cost upon precious human lives.
In the absence of the properly managed drains and appropriate mechanism for waste management source; dirt, filth and night soil can be seen spreading everywhere on the surface in public places like bus stands, streets, roadsides etc.
Surprisingly, the administration and the concerned departments do not get to see this. There is an urgent need for high level officials to pay attention and take responsibility for what exists on the ground and where lies the fault: better to set the things right rather be in a habit of boost for nothing. Ok!  What happens in this regard? shall remain to be seen in the days ahead.